Friday, April 28, 2017

In Search of Great Abs: Planks, Faith, and My Inner Core

There's this exercise that isn't really an exercise. It's more like an instrument of pain and torture - called the "plank."

I found it when I was googling "exercises for women over 50," specifically designed to get rid of that annoying pooch that resides right at my waistline. And I've been doing them. Kind of.

If you know what a plank is, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. Basically, you lie flat on the ground (stomach down). This is my favorite part. Next, you place your palms down, keeping your elbows on the floor (this is my second favorite part . . . it gets harder). Then, you push slightly up, raising your chest, torso and legs off of the ground. Use your upper arm strength, your amazing abs, and your toes. Your body should be straight with your stomach sucked in (more than I'm doing in this embarrassing photo), Your torso should be parallel with the ground. Now you count - oh, and don't forget to breathe. This looks amazingly easy. Unfortunately, it is not.

I can hold the plank position for a short bit. Ten seconds, maybe twelve. And then I get all wobbly, and sweaty, and eventually collapse back into my favorite position, which is lying down.

But I'm told the plank is good for me in so many ways. It strengthens my inner core. It tightens my abdomen, shores up my back, and even improves posture and balance. So, planks it is.

Why am I telling you about this horribly healthy exercise? Because, while I was staring at the ground, trying desperately not to immediately lie back down on it, I had this thought.

It's good to have a strong core. Not just physically, but spiritually, too.

As I've waded through the first years of my 50s, I've felt the earth move a bit. I've gone through some major, life-changing, soul-rattling events.

My core was trembling.

In the span of about three months:
  • My only child left for college.
  • My next door neighbor and then a dear friend died unexpectedly.
  • My mom was diagnosed with round two of breast cancer.
  • A hurricane blasted our hometown.
And it's not even the big stuff; it seems that the list of life-shaking events just keeps going on. Sometimes it's simple things - like when I dropped a glass jar and cut my toe. Or when I was out of town on a business trip and received a tearful, worried phone call from my daughter. Or that time I made a stupid, entirely-my-fault mistake while doing my job.

Even these small, every day things can cause their own special kind of pain and distress. They make us wonder what to do and where to turn.

That's where the core part comes in. I really believe that my faith in Jesus keeps me upright during difficult and bewildering times. In my connection to Him, I have been promised an anchor that holds, roots that go deep, and, time and time again, that inner core has kept me from being blown away by life's trauma.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall  I be afraid?

A stronghold is a fortress, a safe place. Certainly - in times of war - a fortress offered protection from the enemy. The big castle-like structure with enormously thick  walls would shield its inhabitants from oncoming attacks.

When Hurricane Matthew came through our Florida town last October, I realized the importance of a stronghold. I saw enormous trees literally yanked out of the sandy soil by their roots and thrown on the ground. Huge chunks of concrete. Entire boat docks. Uprooted. Tossed aside like they were nothing.

But I know this much is true. No matter what life has tossed my way, God has been my stronghold - and He can be your stronghold, too. Even at age 50, with my flabby stomach and weak abs, I have a God who offers me His resilient, incredible, unfailing strength - and all I have to do is run to Him.

When I'm shaking, when I feel weak, when my core trembles,He is my stronghold, my safe place. He gives me strength. No matter when. No matter where. No matter how weak I might feel...

What do you believe? What holds you firm when the waves of life crash onto your shore?

Turn to Him today. Give Him your troubles, even the really big perplexing ones. Take a walk. Whisper a prayer. Let God's strength become yours. He promises to be your stronghold, your lighthouse, your safe place.

Friends, great abs may come and go, but strengthening our inner core has never been more important.